Delhi is facing the worst air pollution in the world. Air quality has dropped to alarming level. Recently, Hon'ble High Court called the city a “gas chamber” and demanded action by the state government. This called for some immediate action. According to multiple surveys in recent years by organisations ranging from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to the University of Surrey, and from the University of California at Berkeley to the Indian Institutes of Technology in Delhi, Kanpur and Mumbai, the city is now the most polluted in the world. An inglorious, undisputed leader in a dishonour roll that features 13 Indian cities among the top 20. 

Government of NCT of Delhi decided to take some radical measures including implementing Odd-Even Vehicle Scheme. Delhi will be joining other key global cities including Beijing, Sao Paulo, Paris, Bagota and Mexico City to experiment with idea of restricting vehicles usage. From January 1 to 15, 2016 private cars with odd registration numbers will only be allowed on the roads on odd days of the month, alternating with even-numbered cars on even days.
The government is hoping to reduce air pollution by imposing this restriction. However, It is important to see if it is workable solution for the city. The government has issued a detailed blueprint on 25 December which answers all the questions being raised by experts and public. Key points of Odd-Even Scheme are:
  • The odd-even scheme for plying of private vehicles in the city will be in force from 8 am to 8 pm from 1 January for an initial period of 15 days and there will be no restrictions on vehicular movement on Sundays
  • Civil defense voluenteers and envinroment voluenteers will be engaged to help implement Odd-Even Formula
  • All leaves of Delhi Transport Corporation staff to be cancelled from January 1-15
  • The government has given exemption to some users and category of vehicles (Listgiven below)
  • The government has decided to shut down schools during this  period
  • Cars from outside states will also need to follow this formula
  • A penalty of INR 2,000 is proposed for the violation of the scheme
  • Sample of air data will be collected from 200 locations to see how this is working

List of Exempted 

Beijing Experience

Beijing introduced car limit measures first time in 2008, during the Olympics. The city witness rapid increased in the growth to private vehicles, with cars increasing from 2.6 million in 2005 to close to 5 million by 2010. Currently, in Beijing, cars are limited only one day every week, during which commuters rely on either car-pools or take the subway. Further, Beijing has built an extensive subway and public bus network in a three-year building spree prior to imposing restrictions - the subway will soon cross 600 km and double the length of Delhi’s metro system - and also installed a sophisticated automatic surveillance system using cameras to implement the rules, rather than leave the task to traffic police.

Fruther, Beijing has imposed restriction on the registration of new vehicles. The city authority only issues 17,600 vehicle registrations through a lottery system every month. This requires lots of peole to wait for months before being able to drive cars. 

Why It may not be successful?

The public transport system is not ready to deal with this kind of pressure. Delhi has only 213 kms of Metro Rail network and around 6,000 buses to serve around 20 million inhabitants. Public transport network is inadequate to serve the population. 

Some Solutions

Solutions do exist but it will require strong poltical will to implement some short and long term measures. The government can:

  • Incentivize offices with lower taxes to have different work hours, which will balance out the traffic and make it move faster
  • Raise taxes on purchase of new cars (or limit their numbers)
  • Introduce Congrestion charges during peak hours in some key business district to reduce the pressure. It will require to install Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) tags on all cars in the city
  • Encourage Taxi sharing apps as they can go a long way in reducing cars on the roads

Way Forward

It will be great case study to see that how restriction of private vehicles can create positive impact on the environment.